Welcome to our personal injury compensation guide, brought to you by the team at Long, Jean & Wechsler, P.A. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury that was caused by someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or malice, you may be entitled to compensation cor a range of impact you have suffered; however, the legal system is complicated, and determining your rights can be both confusing and overwhelming. This guide is here to give you a general overview of the process, and to learn more about why working with personal injury attorneys is so important.
Our team of experienced personal injury attorneys has compiled this guide to help you understand the basics of personal injury law and how it may pertain to your case. Keep in mind as you read this that no two personal injury cases are alike, meaning that even if you see similarities in any examples referenced in this guide, your attorney will need to take a unique approach in order to ensure that your rights are defended and that you are fighting for the money you rightfully deserve.
Personal injury victims deserve justice and fair compensation, and our team is committed to helping those who have been wrongfully injured. We hope this guide will empower you to take the important next steps in your fight for justice. Contact us right away to request a free consultation about your case, and read on to learn more about the high-level basics of personal Injury law.
Overview of Personal Injury Compensation: What It Is and How It Works
After an accident, there are many different impacts that a victim encounters: the cost of medical treatment, the struggle of dealing with the pains of an injury, repairing or replacing damaged personal property, the setbacks to their normal life, the inability to work, and countless others. While most people are aware that they can file an insurance claim, they typically (and incorrectly) think that they are only entitled to recovering the cost of medical care, the cost to repair property, and lost wages. The reality is that there are many other damages that a victim is entitled to — but simply being entitled does not mean that they are easy to get. Insurance companies are focused on settling claims as quickly and inexpensively as possible, often to the detriment of the victim.
Many people also do not realize that they can work with an attorney even if they aren’t filing a lawsuit. In fact, personal injury attorneys most often work with victims to reach out-of-court settlements, with many of these settlements taking place before a lawsuit is ever filed.
Categories of Personal Injury Compensation
The impacts of a personal injury case, whether a car accident, medical malpractice, product liability, slip and fall, or anything else, are referred to as “damages.” Personal injury victims are entitled to recover financial compensation for these damages, which are subdivided into a few distinct categories: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.
Economic and non-economic damages are both “compensatory” damages, meaning that they are designed to compensate a victim for measurable impacts or losses. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are designed to financially punish the at-fault party. Compensatory damages are present in all personal injury cases, while punitive damages are rare and only awarded by a judge or jury at the end of the case.
Economic damages are designed to compensate victims for actual financial losses or expenses related to the injury, such as hospital bills, the cost to repair or replace damaged property, lost wages, the cost of goods or services to accommodate injuries, and limitations stemming from injuries, and more.
Calculating economic damages is done by totaling all of these damages with no multipliers, add-ons, or anything else. Existing damages are simple to calculate, but tracking down each impact and determining all of the different economic damages a victim is entitled to requires an intimate understanding of personal injury law, and years of experience working through these cases.
Furthermore, it can be difficult to calculate (and then defend in negotiations) potential future damages such as future lost wages or impacts to earnings, as well as future medical care costs and others. Calculating future damages is something that a personal injury attorney must be highly skilled at, because there are many situations where a victim is facing months — or years — of ongoing treatment and lasting injuries that will continue after they have settled their case.
Insurance companies will have a difficult time refuting concrete economic damages but will work to save money in this category by downplaying long-term effects or claiming that the calculations are over-inflated. This is often a winning strategy when dealing directly with an injured victim, but personal injury lawyers are highly skilled at countering this strategy in settlement negotiations.
Non-economic damages are more complex than economic damages, because they are designed to recover financial compensation for impacts of a personal injury that have no measurable dollar value associated with them. These damages include things like the actual pain and suffering a victim experiences as a result of their injuries, as well as things like anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and countless other “intangible” — but very real — results of an accident or avoidable injury.
Calculating the dollar value of something as abstract as “accident-caused depression” can be very complicated, and for this reason, insurance companies will aggressively work to shut down any talk about these damages when working directly with a victim. Victims and their loved ones typically do not have the toolkit to enter serious negotiations regarding these damages and often settle without collecting any of these important damages.
Personal injury attorneys have a number of methods at their disposal for identifying and then calculating the many different non-economic damages. One method is known as the “multiplier method,” which places the severity of the aggregate non-economic damages along a scale (typically between 1-5), and then multiplies that number by the total economic damages. For example, economic damages totaling $100,000 and a multiplier of 2.5x will result in non-economic damages of $250,000 for a total of $350,000 in compensatory damages. Of course, this initial number is a starting point for settlement negotiations and may vary significantly from the final award or settlement amount.
In certain instances, the cause of a personal injury may be so egregious or heinous that a judge or jury decides to levy punitive damages against the responsible party in addition to the compensatory damages. These damages are not a part of settlement negotiations, so your personal injury attorney will never include these in out-of-court proceedings, and will never offer an estimate for what they believe you are owed.
Punitive damages may be awarded in a situation where the liable party is a large corporation or wealthy individual that engaged in intentionally injurious behavior and the compensatory damages will do nothing to dissuade repeating the behavior in the future.
If your attorney believes that your case is a strong candidate for punitive damages, they may opt to file a lawsuit without attempting any meaningful settlement negotiations. However, the at-fault party may also recognize the likelihood of punitive damages (and public disclosure of the problematic behavior) and may make a much higher settlement offer in order to keep the details private. Since no two cases are alike, this is a conversation best left between you and your attorney about what the future of your case may look like.
Factors That Affect Compensation: Liability, Severity of Injuries, and Insurance Coverage
Even two people who were riding in the same vehicle and suffered the same injuries in a car accident will have wildly different settlement amounts simply based on a number of factors, primarily the amount of liability they assume, the severity of their injuries (both in terms of initial medical bills and long-term effects), and the amount of insurance coverage available from the at-fault party.
Florida uses a doctrine known as Pure Comparative Fault for assigning blame following a personal injury. Under this rule, each party (including the plaintiff) is assigned a percentage of fault, with compensatory damages being reduced in proportion to the amount of fault each assumes. This means that a victim who is struck by someone while passing through an intersection may receive 20% less in damages if they are found to be 20% at fault for the accident, like if they do not have their headlights on during a rainstorm.
Without the doctrine of pure comparative fault, any amount of fault would invalidate a victim’s right to seek compensation, so this is an important rule; however, insurance companies will use it to their advantage by trying to pin additional blame on a victim in order to reduce the cost of settling the case. A detail-oriented and experienced personal injury attorney like those at LJW Legal will fight to ensure that you do not take on any more fault than is legitimate.
Severity of Injuries
A broken wrist does not have a set compensation value assigned to it, and anyone who tries to treat your case like a prescribed formula is not looking out for your best interests. A broken wrist for a young person who does not work may lead to pain and suffering, medical bills, and some impacts on their daily life over 6-8 weeks as they recover, while the same broken wrist to an adult or elderly person may result in months of recovery, significant loss of income if they are unable to work, and the potential of chronic pain for the rest of their lives. On paper, they are both broken wrists; in reality, the impacts are substantially different.
As such, it is up to you and your attorney to make sure that the settlement amount takes into consideration all potential medical bills in the future, as well as ongoing pain and suffering, diminished quality of life, potential impacts on future earnings, and more.
Working with an attorney who can make sense of your medical reports and understand the long-term impacts of your injury is an important part of the settlement process. They will need to calculate these impacts and defend their calculations during settlement negotiations and must have a proper understanding of how to navigate this process successfully.
Every driver must carry a minimum amount of insurance coverage in Florida, and most vehicles will have much more than that. However, roughly 1 in every 5 drivers in Florida is operating their vehicle with no liability insurance at all.
Motor vehicle, business, and homeowner insurance all have policy limits, which are the maximum amount of money the insurance company will pay for damages. The minimum liability coverage for a non-commercial Florida driver is $10,000 in personal injury coverage and $10,000 in property damage, and higher limits will mean higher premiums that a driver must pay each term.
In the event that an accident victim needs to seek compensation beyond what is available in the at-fault party’s insurance policy, they may need to pursue additional avenues for damages. An experienced personal injury attorney will help you understand other possibilities for seeking compensation, such as filing a lawsuit directly against the at-fault party or seeking other sources of insurance like added coverage for uninsured motorists.
It is important to note that if an at-fault party does not have the money available, you simply may not be able to recover compensation even if it is awarded.
Negotiating a Settlement: Tips for Maximizing Your Compensation Offer
Negotiating a settlement is a crucial step in getting the money you deserve. You may have a completely accurate calculation, but you will need to work with the at-fault party or insurance company in order to reach an agreement from all parties.
Know Your Worth
Before entering negotiations, you must have a full understanding of the value of your case, accounting for all of the different damages you have suffered. Be prepared with evidence to support each of your calculations.
While knowing the maximum value of your case is important, it’s equally important to be reasonable with your demands and recognize that you may not walk away with every dollar you deserve regardless of what you do. Factor the other party’s ability to pay, the strength of your case, and how much time you are willing to negotiate or the effort you are willing to go through in trial.
Negotiations can be lengthy and exhausting but don’t give up. The insurance company will try to wear you down in order to achieve their own financial goals of paying you as little as possible.
A skilled personal injury attorney can make all the difference in your case, whether or not you are experienced with tort law. While you are focusing on your recovery, they will be investigating your case, negotiating on your behalf, and fighting to get you the money you deserve. When hiring a lawyer, ensure you have a clear understanding of the financial costs involved. When hiring a personal injury lawyer, is crucial for individuals navigating their way through personal injury claims, as it allows you to effectively manage and plan for the associated costs.
Common Myths About Personal Injury Compensation: Debunking Misconceptions and Misinformation
There are many myths about personal injury cases that may prevent victims from seeking the money they deserve. Here are a few of the most persistent, and the truth behind them:
Myth: Personal Injury Cases Are Usually Frivolous
Fact: Personal injury cases are designed to hold accountable those parties that have caused harm through negligent, reckless, or intentional acts. These cases are designed to make a victim whole again through financial compensation for measurable damages.
Myth: Personal Injury Compensation Is Only For the Blameless
Fact: Under the doctrine of pure comparative fault, victims can still be awarded even if they were partially to blame for the accident. The final amount will simply be reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to the plaintiff.
Myth: Personal injury lawyers are only for filing lawsuits
Fact: While some personal injury cases end up in court, the majority of them are settled before a lawsuit is ever filed. Most personal injury attorneys focus almost exclusively on reaching settlements because they are quicker and often more favorable.
Here at LJW Legal our mission is to educate those who have filed a personal injury claim on all facets of the process. From knowing when to settle a claim to how damages are defined and the average timeline for a case, we’ve got answers.
Legal Representation in a Personal Injury Case
If you are filing a personal injury claim and looking for a settlement, it’s crucial that you have the best legal representation possible. A law firm who will fight for the compensation you deserve, who knows the system, and specializes in personal injury settlements.
The court system can be difficult to navigate, with paperwork, due process, and proper presentation of evidence and liability. Find a law firm you can trust. LJW Legal has a qualified team of legal experts with a proven track record of positive results.
Each legal case is unique and you need a law firm who takes a personalized approach to each client they serve. Don’t settle for just any law firm.
Are Online Personal Injury Settlement Calculators Accurate?
The internet is full of calculators and estimates for everything. From mortgage loans to estimated savings on car insurance rates, you can find a calculation for almost anything. If you’ve ever used one, you know that they can be grossly inaccurate. But what about injury settlement calculators?
Of course, before filing a claim, you’ll want to see how much you can possibly get. Is it worth going to court for the amount of money you’ll receive, especially after lawyer fees? Don’t rely on an online calculator to make the decision for you.
Online calculators for personal injury settlements do the best they can, but they really only take a guess. There are more nuances that need to be looked at and accounted for than an online calculator can estimate.
LJW Legal offers free case evaluations before you commit to hiring the team. Speak with a professional before filing a claim so that we can advise you on what to realistically expect. Our lawyers will be straightforward with you, so you won’t be left in the dark.
It’s also important to remember that ultimately, the amount of money you receive in a personal injury claim or settlement is up to either the judge or the settlement you accept. No one can give you a definite number in advance.
Will I Receive Compensation for Pain and Suffering?
While the damage you’ve incurred to your vehicle, property, or medical bills that you’ve accumulated as a result of a personal injury case can be hefty, there’s something more to take into account. Compensation for pain and suffering. How can you put a dollar value on the emotional pain that you’ve been subjected to?
This is another reason as to why it’s crucial to consult with a personal injury lawyer. When filing a claim, the burden of proving pain and suffering is on you. You must be able to show that you’ve experienced a significant psychological or physical impairment as a result of the injury that interferes with your daily life.
Factors That Affect Your Ability to File for Pain and Suffering Damages
For example, if you’ve sustained a serious injury you may be able to file for monetary compensation in congruence with the extent of pain that you endured. Florida is considered a “no fault” insurance state, where you cannot file for pain and suffering damages unless your medical bills have exceeded a certain amount or your injury is considered serious enough to warrant the claim, if the injury results from a car accident.
If you’ve undergone surgeries, had to seek therapy or psychiatric care as a result of your injury, keep track of all of these bills to provide to your lawyer. Things like having to hire a home health aid are included in this list. Additionally, you must be able to prove that your injury was the result of the other party’s negligent behavior. If you are at fault for your injury, you cannot file such a claim.
Factors That Affect the Amount of Damages for Pain and Suffering
Factors that contribute to the amount of money you can receive for pain and suffering include the severity of the injury you’ve sustained, whether or not the impact of the injury is permanent. For example, you are more likely to receive pain and suffering damages for the loss of a limb than you are for a simple bone break.
For these reasons, it’s important to hire the best personal injury lawyer around. A legal team that will be able to address all of these factors and appropriately present them to the opposing party or judge to get the compensation you deserve.
How Are “Damages” Defined in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Damages can include a wide range of things, which is another reason it’s vital to seek a professional case evaluation regarding your claim. Damages that are typically considered valid in a personal injury claim include:
- The cost of medical bills
- The cost of future medical bills that will be incurred as a result of the injury
- The cost of medication associated with the injury
- The cost of physical rehabilitation
- Damage that was incurred to any property in the incident, such as your vehicle
- Damage that was incurred to personal belongings in the incident, such as a cell phone, items that were in a vehicle, aftermarket vehicle parts, jewelry, etc.
- Wages lost as a result of the injury/accident
- Future wages that will be lost in relation to the injury/accident
Will I Receive a Personal Injury Settlement?
Chances are that if you have suffered an injury as the result of another person’s negligence, or the negligence of an organization, you will be entitled to a form of monetary compensation.
Injuries Resulting From Defective Products
If your injury is the result of a product liability or defective product you may be able to join a class action lawsuit if there is a mass recall. Other product liability cases are broken down according to three circumstances.
Breach of Warranty
If a product or service that you have purchased fails to meet the promises of its warranty it is considered to be a breach of warranty. You may be entitled to a product liability claim if it results in a personal injury.
For example, if a product is marketed as being designed for a specific duty or purpose, it is held to a warranty of those standards. When you rely on the merchant to select the product for you, and the incorrect product is selected, resulting in an injury, you may be entitled to compensation.
Personal injury claims that are a result of an organization’s negligence mean that the organization has failed to protect their consumers. This may be as a result of unsafe product development, manufacturer processes, lack of proper inspection or security, or misleading marketing practices.
Injury that results from strict liability simply means that the manufacturer sold a defective product that resulted in injury. The injury may result from a product malfunction, instructions that fail to protect the user, design flaws, or low quality materials that caused defects.
What Kinds of Products Can Result in Injury Liability Claims?
Virtually any product that is manufactured and causes injury can result in a personal injury claim. This includes cars, electronics, furniture, paint, food, home construction materials, children’s toys, and much, much more.
Injuries Resulting from Car Accidents
Personal injury settlements in relation to car accidents are among the most common type of claims. Often, settlements relating to vehicle damage are handled by the car insurance companies. Personal injury claims, however, can be handled by lawyers.
While motorists are generally required to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage on their policies, the limit of coverage you have selected may not cover all of your medical bills and lost wages, and won’t cover damages for pain and suffering.
If you’re injured in a car accident, the most important thing to do is seek medical care right away so you have proper documentation of an injury sustained in a car accident. Keep track of each medical bill you receive and provide them to your attorney to review. Be sure to find a lawyer who specializes in car accident injury claims.
Injuries Resulting from Other Occurrences
Other common personal injury claims result from slips and falls, animal attacks and dog bites, and medical malpractice. At LJW Legal, we have a dedicated team of lawyers who specialize in all areas of personal injury claims and settlements.
Will My Personal Injury Claim Result in a Settlement?
If you have had a free case evaluation and been advised by a lawyer to proceed with a claim, it is likely that you will receive monetary compensation for your injury, damages, and pain & suffering, if applicable. Reputable personal injury lawyers are unlikely to take a case they don’t believe will have a positive outcome.
Statistics back this up. It’s stated that 7 out of 10 personal injury cases result in a settlement. The average amount of money received in a settle is about $53,000, but cases vary greatly. Typically, a personal injury settlement will garner anywhere from $3,000-$75,000 in compensation.
Why Should I Accept a Personal Injury Settlement Instead of Going to Court?
In short, jury trials are unreliable. If you take your case to court without accepting a settlement, you stand the chance of walking away without any compensation at all. This is the last thing that you want when you have suffered an injury at the hands of another person or organization.
One study showed that less than 4% of all personal injury claims make their way to court. This means that 96% of all plaintiffs settle. An experienced personal injury lawyer can advise you on the best course of action based on the unique facets of your case.
When Will I Receive the Money from My Personal Injury Settlement?
Legal negotiations can take some time, which can be frustrating for a person who has suffered an injury. This is why it’s important to hire a legal team that is efficient and aggressive in arguing your case. The sooner you contact a personal injury attorney, the sooner they can begin fighting your case.
It can take anywhere from a few weeks to as much as a year to negotiate a settlement, and the timespan in which you will receive your money varies greatly too. Sometimes you will receive a check in just a few short weeks, but it can take up to several years in specialized cases.
This is another reason to hire the most experienced personal injury law firm to advocate for you.
Lump Sums vs. Structured Settlements
Once you have reached a personal injury settlement agreement, your payment may take one of two forms. Before you agree to settlement, make sure you understand the difference between accepting a lump sum or structured settlement.
Lump Sum Agreements
A lump sum payment means that you will receive all of the money you’re entitled to in a single payment. The other party will pay you the entirety of what you’re owed one time. There are pros and cons to this type of settlement. With a lump sum settlement the advantage is that you receive the money quickly. The downside is that oftentimes, a lump sum agreement may be less money than a structured settlement would be. You’ll also have to pay taxes on the large amount of money all at one time.
Structured settlements mean that you will receive the entirety of your settlement amount over a period of time, little by little. This may be a monthly payment, or a yearly payment depending on the agreement. The benefits are that you only have to pay taxes as you go, and you’re assured that you will have a reliable stream of income for a set amount of time.
Finding the Best Personal Injury Attorney
If you’re in need of a personal injury attorney in Pompano Beach, FL, contact LJW Legal for a free case evaluation today. Remember, time is of the essence when filing for a personal injury settlement and it’s crucial to take action fast.
Hire a team that will fight to get the compensation you deserve.